Thanks to the pandemic we are currently facing, many people find themselves at home with their families much more than normal. In some cases, that is a great thing! Parents are learning more about their children, children are finding new ways to connect with friends and siblings, and game nights are all the rage.
But what about the situations where being at home makes things worse?
According to an article from the National Statistics on Child Abuse, in 2018, nearly 700,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect. Since the shelter in place actions have begun, there has been an increase of at least 30% in domestic violence reports. This is not in just the United States but is showing a jump in countries around the world. Battered wife calls and family disturbance calls are at an all-time high.
What are our duties to other families during this crazy time? They are just trying to find a way to handle working, school, childcare and in many families, loss of income. Where does bad parenting end and abuse and neglect begin? Here are a few scenarios to reflect on.
Scenario one: A family has chosen not to put their children in daycare (for whatever reason) while the parents go to work. At least 2 of the children are at home every day by themselves. One is 8 and one is 10. If you were part of the latchkey generation, leaving your children at home at this age was just fine. But is that the best choice for the children? What are other parents doing? Does this count as neglect or bad parenting or is it just fine?
There is another situation where the family moved from one school district to another school district due to the loss of a job thanks to the virus. When the kid went to school, they seemed fine. They had food, clothes, a roof over their head, baths, and most of the time, made it to school. Then people started to notice that the kid began to be absent more and more. When distance learning happened, the kid was not in the zoom classroom. About that time the school learned they had moved. Through the grapevine, there are rumors the family is living in a very dirty home. The child and siblings are not bathed on a regular basis and they are locked out of the home or bedroom whenever the parents want to be alone. They have food and clothes and shelter but sleep on the floor.. What is our responsibility and is this bad parenting or neglect?
The best thing one can do when faced with a problem is put in some time for research to find out. Child Protective Services and Department of Health and Safety state that neglect is defined as the “failure of a parent or other person with responsibility for the child to provide needed food, clothing, shelter, medical or supervision to the degree that the child’s health, safety, and well-being are threatened with harm.” Looking at the first situation, with the children at home all day, could be a concern of safety and supervision but that is a bit of a stretch for children at this age. Looking at the second situation, we can see signs of health (poor hygiene) and supervision. But it still doesn’t really feel like what was happening was truly neglect.
Bad parenting is defined as not a specific singular act, but a series of repeated actions that consistently harm the child’s demeanor and psychology. Bad parenting is not intentional, usually, but still has a lasting effect on the child. People may not know they are displaying signs of a bad parent due to their education (or lack of) and how they were rased. A big way to identify if someone has bad parenting techniques is to ask the question- are they a good role model? Children inherit bad characteristics based on their exposure to the world around them. If they are surrounded by alcoholism, smoking, cussing, money mismanagement, and bad manners, then that child is experiencing “bad parenting” which is not abuse or neglect.
With both of these cases, there are signs of some “bad parenting” choices and some poor role models. The best we can do right now is to offer encouragement and support to other families if we can and report any dangerous findings.
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